Monday, December 3, 2012

Maggiano's: Philadelphia Review

Update: I thought about amending my post, but thought that simply providing an update would be best. Essentially the bill at Maggiano's was $125 and I had $200 in gift cards (eight $25 cards). I gave her 7 cards so I could add a tip of $35. Service definitely did not warrant a $50 tip. She never returned with the $175 in cards. After 20-30 minutes I was finally able to flag her down.

She mentioned that they don't do receipts for gift cards (never heard of this) and that they would run the cards at the end of the day. I asked for one of the cards back - thinking that I would only leave a tip of $25 for this annoyance. Not as much as I wanted to leave, but enough -  especially considering the faulty service.

I just found out that she CHARGED that 7th card .... for the full amount. I'm curious how they aren't able to run the cards until the end of the day but somehow the full $25 amount in this 7th card is now gone.

Ridiculous and unscrupulous. Feel free to read on to get a flavor for the actual dishes at Maggiano's but to be sure - I'm never returning to this output for such faulty service. Disappointing.


Back in college, we would often come to Maggiano's when our parents were in town and could foot the bill for our group. Consistent Italian food - in unlimited quantities? Yes please!

Unlimited quantity, you ask? They call it 'Family Style' at Maggiano's - and it's the way to go if you have four or more people in your party. They have three different options which range from light, classic, and chef's choice. The higher ranges offer more choices, which may include entrees such as lobster carbonara. You can view all the options here.

So, when the GF's brother and cousin came into town, we decided to grab some light Italian food before going to the Sixers-Thunder game at Wells Fargo. We opted for the classic choice, which gave us the option of 3 different apps or salads, 4 pastas or entrees, and 2 desserts. All of which can be reordered again throughout the meal. Light, to be sure.

Family Style ($28.95 per person)

Bread Service

Bread service is offered with any meal - you don't necessarily need to get one of the family style offerings. However, I was surprised that only one type was offered. I don't know if it's just this location or if Maggiano's has scaled back. However, back in the day (we're talking about over 5+ years ago), they offered at least four different kinds of carbs - Asiago rolls, multi-grain, and the like. In any case, we weren't here to fill ourselves up with bread. So onto the good stuff! 

Spinach Salad
Tender leaf spinach tossed with diced red peppers, roasted red onions and Gorgonzola cheese, topped with applewood smoked bacon and toasted pine nuts. Served with apple cider vinaigrette.

Surprisingly, this salad was one of my favorites of all the dishes. The onions, bacon, and gorgonzola brought a nice, funky savoriness, which was balanced by what were yellow peppers (though the description says red) and apple cider vinaigrette. The toasted pine nuts added a nice textural element to the dish as well. This was reordered again.

These were perfectly sliced - probably with a Mandolin. Very fine - and came out perfectly crisp. Somewhat greasy and heavy - but delicious nonetheless. Well seasoned as well.

At this point, we were only getting the appetizers and our table was already starting to get full - so apologies for the top portion of another plate obscuring some of this dish's plate. In any case, the sausage was well seasoned and had a nice snap. This is surprisingly somewhat sweet. A subtly saccharine lemon butter sauce came with roasted red and yellow peppers. The caramelized onions melded well with the dish as well. This was re-ordered again.

At this point, service was decent, however our waitress was consistently behind on refilling our drinks and more often than not, did not even notice our glasses were empty. They were refilled upon reminder however. To be truthful though, she never took an initial drink order - we had to ask after she had left upon taken our food order. I did appreciate that they fired the mains after the appetizers were semi-finished - though this is most likely because there would have been no room on the table.

The chicken parm at Maggiano's is pretty beastly. Huge breasts of chicken are cut in half - dressed with Provolone and marinara. It isn't heavily seasoned or fried, though it had a nice crisp crust.. The marinara is subtly sweet.

This dish was a prototypical of a baked ziti. Al dente noodles - not over-drenched with pomodoro sauce. The sausage was densely crumbled throughout the dish. Overall, it was a bit heavy handed with the salt though.

The ravioli was creamy and surprisingly light considering the addition of cream cheese. The filling inside the ravioli was a well-seasoned mix of cheese, however the pesto-alfredo cream sauce was a bit bland. The pasta was clearly put under the broiler, which brought a nice toasted element to the dish.

The fettucine was prototypically thick, creamy, and heavy. It was fairly one note though, with a creaminess that was highlighted by salty Asiago cheese. 

At this point in service, the men at the table were still hungry so re-ordered all of the mains. After a thirty minute wait, the manager stopped by to inform us that all of our dishes had broken and the food was thus contaminated and we would have to wait some more. Understandable and fine with us. We appreciated the notice.

Interestingly though - the food came out no less than 2 minutes after he left. So I'll leave the conspiracy theories to you - but it's obvious we either received contaminated food, the original food was fine, or the manager was extremely delayed. In any case, understandably the 2nd round of dishes had slightly less food for some dishes (one less chicken breast for the parm and two less ravioli). We were able to finish about half of this second round and had the rest wrapped to take home. 

After the mains were consumed, it was on to their massive desserts.

This dish was dense - pure chocolate at its finest. The cake definitely had a nice textural contrast with the chocolate mouse. A tall glass of milk would have been the perfect complement.

This creme brulee was immense and highlighted the textural duality of this dish. The top layer of caramelized sugar was incredibly thick. In fact, it took a little effort to break through that crust. The creme portion of the dessert was rich and the vanilla flavor was not joking around. Absolutely delicious. Topped with strawberries, this dessert was definitely a favorite.

Now onto the service. The busboys are clearly busy and the runners do a great job. However, our waitress' service was downhill from the start. I can somewhat forgive the lack of attention to our soda refills. Even when we asked for refills, it took awhile for them to come. Granted - we were there the weekend of Thanksgiving and while it's not the busiest I've seen this location, it was hopping.

At the end of the meal, I was prepared to pay with gift cards (I had $200 in denominations of $25). Despite the lack of consistency in service, in consideration of the busboys and runners, I was prepared to tip over 30%. I gave the waitress 7 gift cards ($175) - expecting that I would get another receipt back to add the tip.

We waited for said receipt.

And waited ..

And waited ...
After thirty minutes of not looking our way and purposely avoiding eye contact, I got her attention and she stopped by. I asked for our bill - and she mentioned that she was confused. I asked what she was confused about. She said that with gift cards, she could only "verify that the cards had the amount listed on the gift card and that they would be processed at the end of day." I mentioned that this was ludicrous and clearly something was amiss.

Honestly - did she expect a 40% tip? Service was nowhere near that good. I asked for one of the cards back, leaving the staff with exactly a 25% tip before taxes. Not exactly chump change, but less than what I had wanted to leave. Fine with me considering the inconsistency in service, but this left an uncomfortable taste in all our mouths, despite the decent food we had just eaten. Especially since she should have at least informed us rather than hiding from us - it was clear that she knew why we were waiting.

Overall, Maggiano's delivers if you're looking to go with a crowd and are seeking out a variety of options. The food is consistent and decent. It's more of a touristy-chain restaurant and due to this, service can get overwhelmed. In this particular instance, it was not necessarily a case of being overwhelmed, but clearly something was amiss. Hopefully not the norm - regardless - there are better Italian options in Philadelphia if you're not looking to be a glutton.

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